Award-winning film explores power of religion

20 October 2015

Internationally renowned Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, has made available to the general public his award-winning film, The Gardener.

Filmed in the Baha'i gardens on the slopes of Mount Carmel and in the outskirts of the fortress city of Acre, it is an exploration of religion, reflected in a dialogue between father and son.

The two characters represent the differing views of two generations. For the father, played by Makhmalbaf himself, religion possesses a profound power. While that power has been used for destructive ends, Makhmalbaf argues that it has also been channeled towards peace, forgiveness, and love—and can be again.

"I want to know why some religions lead to violence and why others don't," he tells his son in the film.

The son, played by Makhmalbaf's own son, Maysam, argues that all religions eventually lead to oppression and violence. What ensues is a rich exploration of the theme.

The film which was premiered at the Busan International Film Festival in Korea has won best documentary at the Beirut International Film Festival.

It has received extensive media coverage across the globe. The New York Times describes the film as "an intimate, discursive inquiry into religious belief". Referring to what it called the "grammar and discourse of this unusual film", the popular Indian daily The Hindu called it "simultaneously rational, intelligent, poetic, and above all intensely civilised".

With more than 20 feature films to his name, Makhmalbaf has won over 50 awards and been a juror in over 15 film festivals.

Until this week, the film, which was made in 2012, had been available only in festivals around the world and in selected screenings.

Watch the film here.